Rocker loves hockey
(Editor's note - Many actors, musicians and celebrities are spending their lives doing what they love. Often, their passions go beyond the job. Impact! takes a look at some of these stars who share one common interest -- their love for the game of hockey!)
From the age of five, Dream Theater's James LaBrie pretty much knew what he wanted to do with his life. He had two goals in mind and spent most of his early years pursuing both -- singing and playing hockey.
As a young boy in the small Canadian town of Midland, Ontario, hockey was never a hobby - - it was a passion. The game was as much a part of his life as going to school and watching TV. LaBrie grew up honing his skills as a top-notch defensemen playing whenever and wherever possible.
"I was like anybody else growing up in Canada -- especially in a small town -- every Saturday night I'd sit down and watch Hockey Night in Canada and have my bag of chips with my family."
That legendary broadcast goes a long way in instilling the passion and dedication the Canadian fans show towards the game.
LaBrie's love for hockey was molded by the styles of NHL greats like Dave Keon, Ken Dryden, Borje Salming and long-time Maple Leafs' great, Darryl Sittler.
"Sittler was just a real classy guy," LaBrie said.
While he loved the game, LaBrie knew he couldn't spend his entire life just playing and watching hockey – but don't think the thought didn't cross his mind. When he wasn't skating or glued to the TV, LaBrie spent his time pursuing his other love - - music.
The future professional musician began playing the drum at the rambunctious age of five.
"My parents said I was tapping on everything, so if they didn't get me a drum set, I'd ruin the house!"
Over time LaBrie found playing the drums to be just as much fun as hockey, but singing was what really got him gassed up! At 16, the drummer's path in life was set for him by fate. With just seconds remaining in one of his games, he threw a seemingly harmless hip check. However, the hit turned out to be anything but harmless. He injured his back and was eventually diagnosed with a fractured backbone that ended his playing days.
What started out as bed rest slowly progressed to a long and difficult rehabilitation process. While physically, limited, LaBrie continued to sing, which provided a needed respite from rehab.
At 18, he moved to Toronto to further pursue his singing career. There, he studied with a vocal coach, landed a job in the band Winter Rose and then signed on with the progressive rock band Dream Theater. As they say, the rest is history.
Six studio albums, one EP and three live releases later - not to mention two solo projects - LaBrie and the band continue to thrill fans with some of the most amazing original work the music world has seen in quite some time. As the year 2002 came to a close, so did Dream Theater's extensive world tour, promoting their latest release "Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence."
Unfortunately for LaBrie, life on the road makes it difficult to keep up with his beloved Maple Leafs.
"I find out through the internet," he said of his attempts to follow the Leafs. "Log on and see what's going on at NHL.com and what the scores are. But actually being able to see the games is very difficult."
But not impossible. When the band was touring through Europe, he got to see some games.
Although he loves what he does, life on the road can take it's toll on even a seasoned pro. So, LaBrie has to find other outlets besides his music. On his last trip overseas, he packed the DVD set of the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the USSR.
"I still remember watching that in school, with a television in the classroom, when I was about eight or nine years old," he said. "I remember being so freaked out when (Paul) Henderson got his goal. Pretty wild."
Currently, Dream Theater are back in the studios working on their seventh studio album, and in the not too distant future LaBrie will return to the studios to record his third MullMuzzler project. For information on everything Dream Theater, just go to their official web site at www.dreamtheater.net.
Even though he didn't get to patrol the back line at Air Canada Centre for his beloved Maple Leafs for a living, LaBrie wouldn't trade his life in for anything in the world. He has a family and a career as the lead singer in a hit rock band. So not making it in the NHL wasn't all that disappointing for the singer. As long as he can still catch a few Maple Leafs games as often as possible and he can log onto NHL.com to keep up with the action, he'll be just fine.